South Africa: MEC Sharna Fernandez Welcomes Release of World Drug Report 2020

press release

The provincial MEC of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez notes the findings in the World Drug Report released in Vienna, Austria today, and urges all those who need help with substance abuse to reach out to the Department.

The release of the report, authored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, comes ahead of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also known as World Drug Day, observed each year on 26 June. The theme this year is Better Knowledge, For Better Care. The report states that around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, while 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders. The report further notes that rising unemployment and reduced job opportunities caused by the Covid 19 pandemic are likely to disproportionately affect the poor, making them more vulnerable to drug use and trafficking.

"We are unable to speak about the impact of substance use without highlighting the link with gender-based violence. It is known that substance abuse places a tremendous burden on the family unit, plays a role in the destabilisation thereof, and affects the social fabric of society.

"The findings are of great concern, as we know that the Western Cape has struggled with high levels of drug misuse before the pandemic started, and may be compounded by expected job losses as a result of Covid 19, and isolation from support networks. I would like to remind the public that substance abuse treatment is a statutory service, and has been available throughout the lockdown. I encourage anyone who needs assistance to approach their nearest DSD office so that an assessment can be conducted, and an appropriate treatment plan be implemented," says Minister Sharna Fernandez.

According to data from registered inpatient treatment centres, there has been a decrease in new admissions just prior to the lockdown, as well as during the lockdown. Some inpatient treatment centres have had to reduce the number of clients admitted to comply with social distancing and other health and safety protocols. However, community-based treatment options are also available, with some treatment centres now exploring online support options. Substance abuse treatment is also offered in the Department's child and youth care centres, targeting minors with substance abuse and behavioural challenges.

"I want to encourage families to seek help from registered treatment centres, and also urge those in recovery to continue with their after care programmes, and participation in support groups. Ongoing support is key to recovery, particularly as we face the Covid 19 global pandemic," says Fernandez.

Anyone who needs assistance can contact their nearest DSD local office, or phone the Department toll free on 0800 220 250.

The UNODC World Drug Report 2020 can be found here.

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